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New camp shines light on food justice and local community

Kathryn Kao

July 30, 2015

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Earlier this month, 30 middle school students from around Athens-Clarke County attended a hands-on camp focused on art, food justice and scientific inquiry.

Sponsored by the College of Education, Athens Land Trust and the Center for Social Justice and Civil Rights in UGA's School of Social Work, Camp D.I.G. is a free summer camp for students who are interested in growing their community and nurturing their future.

The new camp gave the kids an opportunity to participate in a variety of hands-on activities that support STEM and Next Generation Science Standards and attend field trips to various community gardens around Athens and Atlanta.

"The students are really learning about the food justice issue, and they're thinking about how this affects their life, their community, their state and then the world at large," said Christine Hylton, farmer outreach coordinator for Athens Land Trust and a doctoral student in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice.

At the camp, the students were exposed to various art- and science-based activities that highlighted the importance of developing a sustainable and healthy food source. In addition to understanding where their food comes from, the students also gained basic knowledge about what goes into conventional and organic farming practices and how to reduce their carbon footprint.

The camp's critical literacy reading and food chemistry activities taught the kids how to stay fit and apply different health and wellness concepts to their lives.

For example, the students were given a visual demonstration of what types of sugars are present in snacks such as cookies, peanut butter and milk. After attending a brief lesson about complex and simple sugars, the kids used a color indicator test to determine whether their snacks, which were provided by the Clarke County School District, contained high or low levels of glucose.

Another goal of the camp was to educate the students on how to prevent diseases that often plague low-income communities. The kids went swimming at Lay Park and made healthy salads directly from the community garden at the West Broad Farmers Market.

After lunch each day, the kids participated in problem-posing activities focused specifically on their community. Once a problem was posed to the class, the students were asked to come up with a plausible solution using the scientific method.

"The idea we want to situate in the students is to understand different community concepts that bring people together," said Hylton. "And one way to do that is by looking at different ways to express social justice ideas."

The students were introduced to a variety of art forms that contain meaningful stories or messages like film, videography and screen-printing. They learned about spoken word and co-constructed poems in groups, which were then presented to parents and community leaders on the last day of the camp.

Perhaps one of the biggest accomplishments the students can show for their time at the camp is a mural design at the West Broad Farmers Market.

The design is centered on food justice as well as what the students have learned during their time at the camp. After visiting several historical sites like the Center for Civil Rights and Human Rights and the Truly Living Well-Wheat Street Gardens in Atlanta, the students were able to complete their mural on food justice and show how it relates to their community as a whole.

"I really think the students enjoyed all of the camp's hands-on activities," said Hylton. "They're making real-life connections and reimagining these connections in their own personal lives as well as in their community."